Sign of the Times

Louisville, Ky., to vote on smoking ban

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The largest city in a tobacco-growing state that has the highest adult smoking rate in the nation plans this week to consider a ban on lighting up in restaurants and day-care centers. The Louisville, Ky., Metro Council is expected to consider the proposal on Thursday, according to a report from the Associated Press.

An amendment would extend the proposal to include most businesses in Louisville, along with workplaces and public buildings, except for bars.

"If a ban isn't passed, Louisville will be behind [image-nocss] the curve," Ellen Hahn, an associate professor in the University of Kentucky's College of Nursing, told AP. "A smoking ban would put the city right in the mainstream of other American cities."

More than 4,800 municipalities across the country are covered by smoking bans in workplaces, restaurants or bars, or all three, according to the Berkeley, Calif.-based American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation. Fourteen states have passed similar bans.

A move against smoking would be a dramatic shift from Louisville's past, rooted in tobacco production. In the late 1800s, the city had 15 warehouses, 16 manufacturing plants and 79 companies that made cigars and snuff. The tobacco industry boomed in the early 20th century, and Brown & Williamson arrived in 1929, becoming the nation's third-largest tobacco maker before it merged with R.J. Reynolds in 2003.

Kentucky's adult smoking rate was 27.5% in 2004, down from a year earlier but still tops nationally. Gov. Ernie Fletcher said last month that smoking was to blame for about 7,700 deaths each year in Kentucky.